Postpartum self-care

The postpartum period lasts until six weeks after delivery. It is the time for your healing and recuperation after childbirth.

The first post-childbirth check-up is also usually scheduled after this period and you are given the green signal for doing things that look out-of-reach just yet like weight loss exercises, yoga, gymming and sex.

Some women though take longer to recover, say up to 12 weeks to a year while some can heal super-fast, like in 40 days flat. 

Though the timing is flexible, the basics of postpartum care remain the same. It involves looking after your physical and emotional health both. It also involves asking for help and being more patient with yourself and being ready to give birth to a new normal.

Here are some sure-shot ways to give yourself some much-needed TLC at a time you need it the most.

Coping with emotional changes after childbirth 

Postpartum depression- Most of us have heard of the baby blues. These are supposed to be normal and are known to resolve themselves in a short time but postpartum depression is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Baby blues typically come a few days after giving birth and can last for up to two weeks. This is also a common phenomenon and it can affect about 70- 80 percent of new mothers. It causes mild mood swings or negative feelings after giving birth and also irritability, insomnia, sadness, and restlessness.

But if these symptoms become intense and you start thinking of harming yourself or your baby, it’s time to see a doctor as you could be suffering from postpartum depression. 

Its symptoms last for more than two weeks, you may have feelings of guilt and worthlessness, lose interest in daily activities or withdraw from your family, have no interest in your baby, and may also have thoughts of hurting your infant. 

This doesn’t go away by itself and requires medical treatment and you are more likely to get this if you were depressed during pregnancy too.


Coping with body changes post-delivery

a). Pelvic floor muscles 

There are a number of body changes that accompany motherhood. But, let’s talk about the changes that happen to your pelvic floor, for a change. 

Urinary incontinence or urine leakage, poop leakage and chronic constipation are some of the lesser talked about after-effects of childbirth. These are life changing events and the two sure shot ways to deal with them are Kegel or pelvic floor exercises that strengthen the muscles which kind of surround your vagina, the bladder and the rectum. 

Self-care for constipation and the varicose veins that can follow due to straining while pooping can be taken care with a high fluid and fibre intake. 

Eating 5 portions of fruits like bananas and including lots of fresh green veggies will do the trick. If not, you can go for stool softeners after consulting your doctor.

b). Breasts

Your breasts will fill with milk a day or two after childbirth. This is a normal process, but extremely uncomfortable for you. 

Self-care involves an application of warm or cold compress to your breasts. Sore nipples due to breastfeeding are the second big breast problem and you can handle it by using nipple cream to soothe cracking and pain.

c). Vaginal and perineal tears 

The area between your anus and vagina is known as the perineum. It is a thin, narrow area that stretches and often tears during birth.

Your doctor can also put a cut here to help you push out your baby.

You have to take care of this sore area and the stitches that are done to close the cut, both. 

There is going to be a lot of burning, swelling and soreness, not to mention pain and extreme discomfort in your vagina and perineum and you will be bleeding as well.

The way you can manage is by icing the area, using the sitz bottle to dilute the urine and clean after pooping. 

The biggest thing that will help you prevent infections and help overall recovery is to keep the area clean, change pads regularly after short durations, and use a pillow to sit.

You can also use a spray like Dermablast to numb the area if the pain is too much and is stopping you from sleeping or doing normal daily stuff. (You can read more about vaginal aftercare here- link).

You can take a painkiller like Ibuprofen to deal with uterine pain after delivery which happens as your uterus shrinks to its pre-birth size. Do stay away from Anacin, especially if you are breastfeeding.

Also stay away from tampons, sex and strenuous activities that can strain the area and rip your stiches.

d). Weight gain 

Most women put on a lot of weight during pregnancy but the postpartum recovery period is not the right time to lose it as extreme dieting and rapid weight loss can be hazardous to your health. 

e). Sleep problems 

Get as much guilt-free sleep and rest possible- You are going to be dog-tired and the only way for you to get out of the tiredness loop is to get as much sleep as possible. As your baby may wake up every two to three hours for feeding, make sure that you have systems in place to enable you to sleep when your baby sleeps. This is the time when your partner and family steps in to ensure that you do nothing more than looking after yourself and your baby at this time.

Also, help yourself by asking for help. Need we say more?  If there is no family or friends that can help you, go for professional childcare and home help.

Eating healthy square meals at regular intervals are absolutely critical. Take care to have a nutritious diet with enough proteins to promote healing. Increase your intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fluids, especially if you are breastfeeding.

Doing light exercises daily is also very important. Walking is best at this time but avoid anything strenuous, as you most probably have stitches down-there. Your doctor will let you know when it's kosher to exercise. 

You also don’t want to get pregnant with an infant on your hand so ask your doctor about contraception once you resume sex after six weeks.

But, do remember that you should wait three weeks before using birth control that contains both estrogen and progestin like the pill, the patch, and vaginal ring as using these methods in the early weeks after giving birth increases the risk of dangerous blood clots. 

About the Author

Shikha Gandhi